If you’re seeking a lawyer for social security disability appeal because your case has been denied, an attorney can help. When it comes to your benefits, it’s never too late to seek legal council.
Yet, there are many reasons to consult an attorney long before your claim is decided.
Keep in mind that even the initial stage of your claim can take months to resolve, and most claimants are initially denied. During this time, a lawyer can give you the best possible chance of an approval—and optimize your strategy for appeals, should your benefits be denied.
Lawyers’ fees for Social Security disability cases are also strictly regulated, so you typically don’t owe these fees up front. This allows you to access legal representation for your claim right away, even if you can’t afford an attorney out of pocket. (More on this below.)
There are many resources to help you apply for the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. However, the experience a disability attorney has with these types of claims gives you a unique advantage that could mean the difference between benefits and a dead end.
A qualified attorney also differs from other resources in one crucial way: An attorney advocates for you, and has a vested interest in you receiving your benefits.
Here are some reasons to consult a lawyer about your Social Security disability case sooner rather than later.
Social Security Disability Lawyers May Help You Avoid Appeals Altogether
While most claimants are initially denied benefits (about two-thirds of all applicants), you’re much more likely to win your claim in these earlier stages when represented by a disability lawyer.
Your attorney is likely to have experience with many cases similar to yours, and will have developed intuitions about what evidence the Social Security Administration (SSA) is looking for to prove your disability meets their strict standards.
Some of the evidence you will submit for your claim includes:
- Medical records such as imaging and testing, doctors’ notes, written medical opinions, information about medications and therapies, and others.
- Financial, employment, military service, and tax documents.
- Your Adult Function Report.
You may undergo a telephone or in-person interview. You may also be asked to undergo additional interviews or examinations, depending on the specifics of your claim. It takes the SSA three to five months on average to review your claim, but this period may be longer or shorter.
Due to the lengthy wait, and considering that claimants may already have been out of work for some time prior to applying, it’s crucial to give yourself the best possible chance of winning your claim at this initial stage.
The right lawyer can ensure you provide the most persuasive evidence of your condition, so that it is most likely to meet the SSA’s definition of disability. Lawyers will help you prepare paperwork so that you don’t give too much or too little information, but precisely what is relevant and most likely to prove your case.
Although there is no guarantee, your lawyer will be able to identify instances where your case can be expedited.
Some instances that can speed up the review process include:
- Dire need
- Certain instances for Veterans
- Compassionate allowances for those whose conditions qualify under CAL listings
- “Presumptive disability” payments for claimants awaiting a decision
- Certain illnesses expected to result in the claimant’s death
- Requesting an advanced emergency payment
If you meet any of these conditions, your attorney will advocate for your claim to be expedited.
You Don’t Pay Social Security Lawyers’ Fees Until You Win
In most instances, your lawyer won’t collect a fee until after you win your claim. If you don’t win your benefits, you won’t owe this fee.
This is because fees for Social Security disability cases are strictly regulated by the federal government. Typically you will sign a “contingency fee agreement” detailing how and when payment is due.
What you owe: 25% of your initial disability check (backpay) or $6,000, whichever is less.
Since there is less financial risk in consulting an attorney earlier in the process, the rewards far outweigh this particular risk.
Attorneys also often offer a free initial case evaluation. This is the perfect opportunity to interview lawyers and find the right fit for your case.
You may owe costs such as postage, obtaining medical records, and other costs associated with your claim. In rare instances, your lawyer’s fee may be higher if there are multiple appeals hearings or if you must appeal beyond the hearing level.
Discuss these details with your attorney.
Helping Your Attorney Help You
The earlier in your case you consult an attorney, the more familiar they’ll be with the details of your case. This allows you more time to build an effective strategy even if your claim is denied and you must appeal.
Should you need to appeal, your lawyer is an important advocate and expert in helping you prepare for each stage of the process.
During the reconsideration stage, your lawyer will be able to identify any mistakes made when your benefits were denied, giving you a better chance of having the denial reversed.
During an appeals hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), an attorney can advocate on your behalf. They can help you prepare for your hearing and gather any relevant evidence to present. They can also represent you during your hearing, such as by cross-examining you and other witnesses.
The right lawyer will be familiar with local judges and can anticipate their expectations. They will also know how to present strong arguments against court-appointed medical and vocational experts who’ll try to disprove that your disability prevents you from working.
If your case should go beyond the hearing level, an attorney can continue to aid you throughout.
If your Social Security disability claim has been denied, or you’re thinking about filing and don’t know where to start, Affleck & Gordon can help. We’ve been helping people in Georgia just like you for over 40 years. Sign up for a free case evaluation here, or call us (404) 990-3945.